In June, the Dominican Republic’s Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources Orlando Jorge Mera (“Jorge Mera”) was assassinated. Jorge Mera had been in office since August 2020 and was well liked and regarded in the cabinet, his demise came as a shock.
A senior executive at a trade and investment consulting firm in the Dominican Republic explained, “The new government of Luis Abinader has sought to portray itself as free from corruption and so far, the country’s bureaucracy has been effectively run. Jorge Mera was murdered by a close personal friend who pumped a lot of money into his campaign, the expectation was that lucrative contracts would be offered in return and when this did not happen, more serious options were considered which ultimately led to the minister’s demise.”
“Jorge Mera was murdered by a close personal friend who pumped a lot of money into his campaign…”
A senior executive, consulting firm, Dominican Republic
Jorge Mera was killed by a friend he had known since childhood – Miguel Cruz, the owner of a construction company which extracted stone material from rivers. His business was significantly impacted by Jorge Mera’s strict environmental policies that have sought to curtail the degradation of rivers.
One senior executive believed, as many people did in Dominican Republic, that Jorge Mera was doing a good job, “He was trying to follow the law. You know, he was strict sometimes, more than expected. Sometimes he was very aggressive, like firing some employees, but he was following Abinader’s line: very strong in speech and action against corruption and impunity.”
A congressman in Dominican Republic added, “Jorge Mera had a good reputation but he was trying to stop corrupt practices in a country where there is still endemic corruption. I hope the new minister will follow in Jorge’s footsteps.”
“Jorge Mera had a good reputation but he was trying to stop corrupt practices in a country where there is still endemic corruption.”
A congressman in Dominican Republic
What next for the Ministry of Environment? The ministry and the administration will likely continue efforts to court investment in renewable energies. Until there is a new Minister of Environment, the Presidency of Dominican Republic takes control of the Ministry of the Environment.
The senior executive added, “President Abinader wisely appointed the Vice President Peña as the new Minister of Environment, who is a very fine lady, a very strong lady.” The congressman has confirmed that Vice President Peña has already met with the Vice Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources to coordinate the continuation of the work in that institution, after the death of Jorge Mera.
Mining, naturally, remains critical to economic growth and fiscal stability. The industry’s importance was put into sharp perspective during the pandemic when free zones and the vital tourism sector were essentially paralysed. Healthy balance sheets allowed the government to purchase substantial amounts of vaccines and the Dominican Republic compared to much of the region has emerged from the Covid-induced lockdown relatively unscathed.
Amidst public criticism that the mining industry has caused significant environmental damage, the ministry could look to renegotiate contracts with a stronger focus on how future developments might adversely affect local ecosystems. The senior executive reminded us that “there will always be projects that have problems; however, Abinader’s government is very clear towards protecting investment. And, ensuring it is secure. The President is a businessman. He knows how important protecting the investment environment is.”